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Making A Beautiful Statement

Making A Beautiful Statement

This is the time of year for unique beauty contests in Israel.

Last week in this space: the annual Miss Large competition for hefty participants.

This week: Miss Holocaust Survivor, which was held in Haifa.

The first such pageant featured 14 entrants — not a “miss” among the wives and mother and grandmothers — who were chosen from some 500 women, age 74-97, who wore accessorized black evening gowns while walking on a red carpet.

It wasn’t really a beauty pageant, physical appearance counting for about 10 percent of the criteria and the women’s inspirational surviving-and-rebuilding stories for the rest. But the competition, sponsored by an Israeli cosmetics firm, was, predictably, controversial.

“Totally macabre,” said Colette Avital, chair of the Center of Organizations of Holocaust Survivors in Israel. “Something a decent person shouldn’t even think about,” a daughter of Holocaust survivors told Associated Press.

On the other hand, said Shimon Sabag, event organizer and director of the Yad Ezer L’Haver survivors’ assistance organization, the contestants “feel good together. The fact that so many wanted to participate proves it’s a good idea.”

Sabag called the pageant a celebration of life.

“It’s not easy at this age to be in a beauty contest,” said Hava Hershkowitz, above, who as winner of the competition receives an all-expenses-paid weekend in a five-star hotel.

A 78-year-old native of Romania who spent World War II in a Soviet detention camp, she is a grandmother and lives in a Haifa residence for fellow survivors.

She entered the competition, she said, to make a statement. “We’re all doing it to show that we’re still here.”

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